Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Dear Birth Peeps,

The Medical Birth Story is the dominant birth story in our culture.  It is considered the most valid story and therefore is the most validated story. It’s the story of medical diagnosis and management peers ask new mothers to tell. It’s the story elicited by birth peeps during an intake interview for prenatal care; the briefer the better. (“Just the facts m’am, nothing but the facts.”) Women are prepared to participate in the hospital birth culture through medical research (which is another medical birth story) and anecdotes in books, classes, lectures, internet, and television.


When telling their story at this Gate, the storyteller can be emotionally charged, detached, or objective, using medical jargon to justify, explain, or debate their labor “management.” When a birth story is emotionally traumatic, the storyteller can become attached to the meaning she has given the story and to herself because it happened to her. As a result, many get stuck at this Gate, which means that this version becomes their final version. If a woman never progresses beyond the Fifth Story Gate, something will always be missing for her.  If she stops here she may never know a deeper, more spiritual meaning—or story--that is waiting up ahead.


What is the Medicine for this Gate?

A coherent birth story is comprised of lots of moments strung together in a certain order. At first “what happened” in a mother’s mind is fragmented and not in sequential order. The endorphin haze of labor clouds her linear memory.  One clue that she is approaching the Fifth Gate is when she begins to ask others who were witnessed the labor what happened, when, and why?”

Her story before this gate can be likened to beading a necklace on a string. Before the knot is tied, the beads can slip off the string and scatter.  At the Fifth Gate your tasks are to gather up the beads and string the story beads together into chronological order.

 It may be difficult for others to hear the storyteller struggle to find missing pieces, sort them out, and put the bits together again. A storyteller should not be rushed through this Gate or offered advice for a do-over birth; it does not help heal to vilify the medical model.  




  1. If your final question was rhetorical I apologize for answering.

    One of my most wise and strong woman-friends underwent a traumatic hospital birth. The healing, it seems, the medicine for the Gate of the Medical Birth Story, is to tell ones story over and over to a woman who sits still and listens and loves. And eventually her story will unfold when she has reached the inner-most fearful memory. Which, as you have said before, is always a reflection of a relationship around her.

    When she pin-points the beginning of her births unraveling, she can rebind the root of her experience, and heal from the inside out. Then, the lights will begin to turn up and she will move beyond the tales of "and then the doctor did..." and "and then they gave me this" to "Despite my hurt, the chemicals dripping though tubes, and feelings of abandonment I then gave Birth to my son, so bravely."

  2. Thank you for sharing on this blog... yes I am asking for readers to share here... to create a dialog about this important topic.

    Sometimes, the storyteller does reach the kernel of the story through repetition. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. There remains a risk that the story will become stuck, or "memorized" and continue to be told by rote... and in a sense, the storyteller (in this story) remains in the underworld--sometimes for a decade or a lifetime.

    You mentioned that having a loving listener listen may help the storyteller go deeper, and THIS is true.


  3. I have been steeping this question again today and came upon an idea that works when one gets writers block or can't quite work out where a painting is going...

    Maybe asking an abstract question would be enough to bring the Story-teller back to her Ordeal. For instance, if she gets caught up on what happened right before she was moved from her Labor Room to the Operating Room could the story-listener ask her something like, " What were the sounds of that transition?" or "Where were the clocks in the room?" "How did the lighting change on your journey to the Operating Room and how did it make you feel?"...

    Would these things be too pushy and potentially push the story down the wrong path or could it be just the thing to get her to stop, meditate, and remember some bit she is missing which could then help her find the key to passing through this very Gate she is stuck behind?